Yes, “Pawternity Leave” Is a Real Perk. Should You Offer It?

Does giving your workforce time off to bond with a new furry family member really attract prospective employees — and make it more likely that existing workers will stick around for the long run? Many employers are wagering it will, which is why “pawternity leave” has taken off in the employee benefits packages of large and small companies alike.

As part of a new class of perks aimed at younger workers, the benefit accommodates a growing ethos among Gen Z and millennial employees that pet parenting is as important as child rearing — and that “fur babies” are just as much a part of the family as human ones.

The Changing Tides of Parenting Norms

Younger people may be on the fence about having kids, but they’re pretty decidedly in favor of animal companions — 44% of millennials may not want children, but only 27% say the same of pets. This trend has prompted a ballooning industry of pet products aimed at people who want only the best for their four-legged kids — like high-end raw food, memory foam bedding and designer clothing.

As unemployment inches down and employers find themselves competing for fresh talent, many companies are itching to follow the trend as well. Traditional benefits programs that offer parental leave or subsidized child care may not do much to woo younger applicants. After all, what good is a 12-month maternity leave if the employee has no plans to have human children soon, if at all?

Pawternity Leave in Practice

If you’re considering a pawternity perk as part of your employee benefits, it’s worth a go: The benefit requires little investment and has the potential to have a big impact on employee satisfaction at your business.

Don’t feel that you have to offer a three-month sabbatical for new “paw-rents”; just a few days will do. For the most part, employers who have pawternity leave tend to just offer short time off — from a day to a week — to help care for and bond with a new little one.

For example, Harper Collins employees in India get a full work week of paid time off, while Mars Petcare provides 10 paid hours of pet leave, after which time a “bring your pet to work” benefit kicks in. Some employers offer the added benefit of pet bereavement to acknowledge the importance that animals have in employees’ lives.

To help protect the integrity of the perk, employers can still be choosy in giving out pawternity: Some companies make pawternity leave contingent on pet adoption — rather than buying from a breeder — as part of the movement to help shelter or fostered animals find a home. If you worry about employees abusing the benefit, take a cue from tech support company BitSol Solutions and grant the leave on a by-request basis.

Does This Idea Have Legs?

Will pawternity leave stick around, or is it just a hip trend that will inevitably fizzle out? It’s hard to say. After all, insights suggest that while millennials do want trendy perks like pawternity leave or office massages, Gen Zers (the group right behind them) value more traditional aspects of work like stability and predictability.

Perhaps the gusto for pawternity perks will be short-lived. But then again, as more young people delay human parenthood and opt for a four-legged kid instead, what harm can it do to offer them a day or two off to bond with Fido?

Plus, given the emotional and physical health benefits of pet ownership — and the fact that happy workers are more likely to be productive employees — maybe the idea isn’t so far-fetched, after all.

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